Ralphie May on Being the White Guy on The Big Black Comedy Show, "'Big' Is the First Word In There"
If you were lucky enough to be called a pig-fucker by Ralphie May, that means you were at his first big show, opening for his idol, Sam Kinison.
If not, you've probably seen Ralphie on everything from Last Comic Standing to the Big Black Comedy Show to any one of his standup shows on Comedy Central. He's going to be performing at the Palm Beach Improv for the next two weeks with his wife, Lahna Turner (not that Lana Turner), opening for him. We talked to him about touring with his honey, leaving Afghanistan, and learning Spanish.
New Times: I read that Sam Kinison is your idol and that you met him at a stand up competition. How'd that go?
Ralphie May: Oh man, it was great and horrible at the same time. It was a radio station contest to open for Sam Kinison and I won at 17-years old. On the way over to the show he said "Kid, are you nervous?" and I said "No." And he said "Kid, there's going to be 3,500, people there tonight, and none of them paid to see you."
Well, if you weren't nervous, you certainly were then.
Exactly. Then he asked if I had closer, and I didn't even know what that was. He told me it was the closing joke, and I had one but he said "Well, use mine if you get into trouble. Just start yelling and cussing and screaming at the audience. The more you do that, the more they'll love you."
Sounds like solid advice.
[Laughs] Right? So it's about five minutes in, and I'm destroying it, doing really well. And I get ahead of myself and I flub a punch line and a setup and the joke bombs. Then the next joke bombs. So I panic, realizing that I was close to the end of my time.
I just start yelling at the audience, calling them inbred and pig-fuckers. And they all start booing me. So Kinison gets on stage and says to the crowd: "Can you believe that kid? Coming up here and yelling at you like that? He'll never do stand up again!" And standup is all I wanted to do, so I'm crying a little bit when Bill, Sam's brother, comes up and says, "Sam never thought you'd have the balls to do that, why don't you come with us to the after-party?" During the night Sam told me I should move to Houston where he got his start, and that's what I did.
Most people know you from Last Comic Standing, can you tell me about that experience and what it did for your career?
I loved it. America didn't choose me but you know what? I got standing ovations every show while using different material each time, and I was the only comic to do either of those. And not winning sort of galvanized me because it created an outrage from people that thought I should've won. And those fans made my first album go platinum. I've got five albums and sold 6.8 million, and it's just tremendous.
You and your wife, Lahna Turner, are a comedy touring duo, how do you like that?
I love touring with her, it's perfect. My fans love it, I talk so much about her and the babies. It's very nice to have them around.
Speaking of the babies, you have two kids! Parenting is hard on a normal day, how do you do it on the road?
We have a nanny but when we don't, we switch off. If I'm on stage she's with them, if she's on stage I'm with them. We do the exchange on stage so they've been onstage their whole lives and they're not afraid of anything, which is a really good thing to teach your kids.